What does the aftermath of Ohio’s referendum to overturn the anti-union SB 5 tell us about 2012? Most likely, not a great deal. But if it does prove to be a harbinger, I suspect the mechanism will be by costing the GOP votes from union households that it’s counting on to win. Everyone knows that labor unions, in their institutional forms, are big supporters of Democratic candidates. But GOP-voting by union members or members of union households is hardly unheard of. Gov. John Kasich, for example, got the vote of 35 percent of Ohioans who say someone in their house is in a union. In 2004, George W. Bush got re-elected in part thanks to the backing of 40 percent of voters who said someone in their household was a union member. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker got 37 percent of the vote of members of union households to win in 2010.
These aren’t huge numbers, of course, but they’re way better than Republicans normally do with African-American voters. I generally emphasize the role of macroeconomic conditions in driving swing voters’ behavior and thus election outcomes. But it’s obvious that there’s also a deep demographic structure to the American electoral landscape. It’s at least conceivable that the newly vigorous anti-union sentiments in the Republican Party would drive a structural shift in this regard and push down the number of “winnable” union members who are willing to consider GOP candidates.